Birding Community E-Bulletin: September 2010

September 2010

This Birding Community E-bulletin is being distributed to active and concer=
ned birders, those dedicated to the joys of birding and the protection of b=
irds and their habitats.

This issue is sponsored by NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and the wonderful bird and b=
irding books they make available:


You can access an archive of past E-bulletins on the website of the Nationa=
l Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA):


Shortly after noon on 26 August, Bob Sundstrom, Ryan Merrill, and Tom Avers=
a found a Lesser Sand-Plover (a species previously known as Mongolian Plove=
r) at the Oyehut Wildlife Area (called the Game Range by locals), at Ocean =
Shores, Washington.

This species is an Asian visitor to North America, one which has rarely bre=
d in western Alaska. It=92s even rarer south of Alaska. Although there have=
been previous reports of Lesser Sand-Plovers in Washington, until now none=
fully documented by multiple observers or photographs.

If you are unfamiliar with the species you might check the National Geograp=
hic Guide (fifth edition, page 158-159), the Kaufman Guide (page 162-163), =
or the =93big=94 Sibley (page 166).

Many birders gathered at the site to see the bird, which only cooperated fo=
r two days, much to the relief of the quick-acting among them and the disap=
pointment of at least 100 weekend visitors who missed it.

You can see photographs of the Lesser Sand-Plover taken by Ryan Merrill on =
26 August here:
and others taken by Ryan Shaw at:


It has been another astounding year and another grand season for Cook’s Pet=
rels off California. A year ago we wrote of the remarkable occurrence of th=
is species in California:

Cook’s Petrel is not particularly well known off the coast of North America=
, and those few birds that appear (May to November) are almost always more =
than 100 miles offshore. This year, in late July astounding reports were re=
ceived from Peter Pyle and Abe Borker who were surveying seabirds for NOAA =
at the Davidson Seamount, about 60 miles from Monterey harbor. They observe=
d a total count of over 3,000 Cook’s Petrels on one day and almost 1,400 th=
e next.

According to Debi Shearwater, who helped us collect these numbers, there we=
re also additional sightings of Cook’s Petrels: four on 31 July off Half Mo=
on Bay and one on 6 August off Monterey. These birds then seemed to disappe=
ar offshore almost as quickly as they appeared.

Cook=92s Petrel breeds (October to April) on islands off New Zealand, and t=
he birds apparently spend some of their non-breeding season off South Ameri=
ca. The recent increase in reports off our own Pacific coast has been attri=
buted to the successful removal by researchers of rats and cats from Little=
Barrier Island, New Zealand. Little Barrier Island is one of New Zealand’s=
premier native wildlife sanctuaries and is the reported source of “our” Co=
ok’s Petrels. Indications are that we might continue to see increased numbe=
rs of them in future years as the population continues to rebound.


What follows are three reports on birds and habitat in the aftermath of the=
Gulf oil Deepwater Horizon situation.

First, there are the attempts at discouraging migratory birds =96 mostly wa=
terfowl and shorebirds =96 from getting close to oiled wetlands.

As the fall migratory season proceeds, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a=
nd its conservation partners have flooded hundreds of acres in Louisiana, e=
ast Texas, and Mississippi along with cultivating additional tons of rice a=
nd grains in the hopes of attracting migratory birds away from oiled areas =
around the Gulf of Mexico. Much of this enhanced bird habitat is on Nationa=
l Wildlife Refuges. You can find more details here:

At the same time, the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the age=
ncy responsible for conservation delivery under the Farm Bill, has recently=
created an enhanced and highly ambitious Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative=
aimed at =93working wetlands=94 in eight States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florid=
a, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas.

Partners have moved rapidly. Charles Duncan, Director of the Shorebird Reco=
very Project at the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences and Director o=
f the Executive Office of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network =
(WHSRN), observed that =93The response from rice and crawfish farmers has b=
een astonishingly positive.=94 The NRCS goal was to enroll 150,000 acres ac=
ross the entire Gulf region and the southern Mississippi Flyway. By early A=
ugust, the NRCS had received almost 1,900 applications totaling 427,000 acr=
es in Louisiana alone. For details, see here:

At least 90 percent of the farmers who enrolled chose to do so under a thre=
e-year, rather than the alternative one-year, commitment. Ergo, the benefit=
to migratory birds will last well beyond the immediate crisis response fro=
m this disaster.

You can access information on the NRCS efforts here:

Of course, among species deemed highly migratory, waterfowl and shorebirds =
are thought to be at particular risk in light of the oil-gusher event. Ther=
e are some species of ducks (e.g., bay ducks) and certain shorebirds (e.g.,=
some plovers) that will probably be unaffected by these flooding programs.=
Still, the efforts are innovative and at least effective for some species =
that are in danger. This is a model effort to be studied, strengthened, and=
perhaps replicated.


Our second Gulf effort is acquisition related.

In late July, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unveiled a special envelope, o=
r =93cachet,=94 to be sold with the newest Migratory Bird Hunting and Conse=
rvation Stamp. Proceeds from this effort are to be used to benefit Gulf Coa=
st habitat security. This =93cachet=94 features a silk-rendered image of St=
. Marks NWR on the Gulf Coast of Florida, and the Stamp itself features an =
American Widgeon.

The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, also known as the =93Duc=
k Stamp,=94 has been around since the 1930s. It is still used to secure wat=
erfowl habitat, but it also serves a much larger purpose. Since the program=
started, over $750 million has been raised to protect over 5.3 million acr=
es of wetland and grassland habitat.

The USFWS will be tracking how much money is deposited in the Fund from cac=
het sales, and these funds will be targeted specifically for future acquisi=
tion of wetlands for Gulf Coast National Wildlife Refuges.

The Limited Edition Cachet can be purchased for $25. You can find more deta=
ils at:


The third Gulf report, in response to the runaway BP oil well, also has to =
do with acquisition, but on a grander scale. It deals with the Land and Wat=
er Conservation Fund (LWCF).

We have previously written about the LWCF and the huge amounts of bird habi=
tat secured through this funding vehicle. To revisit what we wrote in the J=
anuary E-bulletin, see:

On Friday, 30 July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3534, the=
Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act, or CLEAR Act. In the=
bill were several provisions to help wildlife impacted by the BP event as =
along with providing full funding for LWCF. Of particular importance for bi=
rd and habitat supporters, the House bill would:
1. Fully fund LWCF at $900 million annually without being subject to a=
nnual appropriations. (Appropriators would still determine what projects ul=
timately were funded every year.),
2. Give National Wildlife Refuges the ability to collect and keep fund=
s for damages resulting from oil spills and other criminal acts,
3. Provide $1.2 billion to fund a “Gulf Coast Restoration Program” wit=
h a Task Force to create a regional restoration plan.

A companion bill, S. 3663, slightly different and weaker in some elements (=
e.g., less than full LWCF funding), was introduced in the Senate before the=
August recess. It is expected that the Senate may return to the bill as ea=
rly as the week of 13 September.

Conservationists only have the chance to address the LWCF about once per de=
cade. The last time was in 2000, when the House passed the famous CARA bill=
, and the Senate then dropped the ball. The time to effectively reach the S=
enate with a message on this important cause may not come again for a long =

You can find a fine summary from the Wildlife Management Institute here:
and here from the National Wildlife Refuge Association here:


The National Center for Protected Areas (CNAP, BirdLife in Cuba) has launch=
ed an Important Bird Areas directory for Cuba, detailing 28 IBAs, covering =
over 2.3 million hectares. The book was published with financial support fr=
om BirdLife International, the British Birdwatching Fair, and the Canadian =
Wildlife Service/Environment Canada. The IBAs support critical populations =
of globally threatened birds, species with restricted-ranges, and those bir=
ds that congregate in significant numbers for breeding, feeding, or on migr=

For more on this story, see:

For additional information about worldwide IBA programs, and those across t=
he U.S., check the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area program w=
eb site at:


Here=92s another bit of Caribbean news of interest.

Birders have recently been made aware of two taxonomic =93splits=94 in Nort=
h American birds as announced by the American Ornithologists=92 Union (AOU)=
. These include Pacific and Winter Wrens (formerly simply Winter Wren) and =
Eastern and Mexican Whip-poor-wills (formerly simply Whip-poor-will). Sever=
al other recent splits also reveal conservation problems.

The splitting of the Greater Antillean Oriole (Icterus dominicensis) into f=
our separate species has resulted in the =93creation=94 of four new island =
endemics =96 the Bahama (I. northropi), Cuban (I. melanopsis), Hispaniolan =
(I. dominicensis) and Puerto Rican (I. portoricensis) Orioles. This announc=
ement is accompanied by a sense of concern. The new Bahama Oriole is appare=
ntly in trouble. It used to be found on the Bahamian islands of Abaco and A=
ndros however the Abaco population was extirpated during the early 1990s, a=
nd there is strong evidence that the Andros population is in serious declin=

For more on this situation, see:


The National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA) announced its 5th annual di=
gital photo contest showcasing America’s National Wildlife Refuges. Entries=
for the 2010 Refuge Photo Contest can be submitted until 24 September 2010=
with results to be announced in October 2010 in connection with National W=
ildlife Refuge Week.

Images submitted for the photo contest can be birds, mammals, insects, fish=
, other animals, plants, people, or simply shots of refuge scenery. The lio=
n=92s share of submissions always seems to be of birds.

This year, Southwest Airlines, the official airline of the NWRA, has donate=
d $2,000 cash and two round-trip tickets for the first place prize. Other p=
rizes include offerings from Wild Bird Centers of America, Houghton Mifflin=
Harcourt, and HaberVision, with winning image hosting services provided by=

For photo contest details, requirements, and procedures, plus a gallery of =
previous winning images, see:


An alliance of conservation, hunting, and veterinary groups filed a formal =
petition with the Environmental Protection Agency in early August requestin=
g a ban on the use of toxic lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle.

The American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Association=
of Avian Veterinarians, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility,=
and a hunters’ group, Project Gutpile, have asked for this ban under the T=
oxic Substances Control Act, which regulates dangerous chemicals in the Uni=
ted States.

About 75 bird species are known to be regularly poisoned by spent lead ammu=
nition, including Bald Eagles, Golden Eagles, Trumpeter Swans, Common Raven=
s, and endangered California Condors. At least 30 of the condors in Califor=
nia and Arizona have died from lead poisoning since the experimental reintr=
oductions began.

Despite being banned in 1992 for waterfowl hunting, spent lead shotgun pell=
ets continue to be regularly ingested by swans, ducks, geese, loons, cranes=
, and other waterbirds. These birds also consume lead-based fishing tackle =
lost in lakes and rivers, often with deadly consequences.

Lead ammunition also poses human health risks. One recent study found that =
up to 87 percent of cooked game killed by lead ammunition can contain unsaf=
e levels of lead.

You can read more on this effort here:

We have written about the lead issue many times previously in the E-bulleti=
n, including November 2007 on the ban over large parts of California:
September 2008 on the =93blue ribbon=94 California Condor panel:
January 2009 on Grand Canyon California Condors:
May 2009 on the National Park Service dealing with the issue:


In mid-August, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it was see=
king public comment on a proposed effort to reintroduce the endangered Whoo=
ping Crane into habitat at the state-owned White Lake Wetland Conservation =
Area in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana.

Whooping Cranes historically occurred in Louisiana, both a resident non-mig=
ratory flock and a migratory flock that wintered in the state.

The USFWS and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) wil=
l attempt to establish another non-migratory flock in the wetlands, marshes=
, and prairies of southwestern Louisiana Where there are approximately 1.3 =
million acres of marsh, open water, and suitable Chenier habitat. If this p=
roposal is approved, the reintroduction effort could begin in early 2011.

Currently, the only self-sustaining wild population of Whooping Cranes is t=
he one that migrates between Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Te=
rritories of Canada and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas. This pop=
ulation continues to be vulnerable to the threats of continued habitat loss=
and other natural or man-made catastrophes. Multiple efforts are underway =
to reduce these risks by increasing other populations in the wild, includin=
g ongoing efforts to establish a migratory population in the eastern United=
States. You can read about these efforts here:

Any new, reintroduced, non-migratory population of Whooping Cranes would be=
designated as a non-essential, experimental population (NEP) under the pro=
visions of the Endangered Species Act. This designation would be seen as mo=
re compatible with routine human activities in the reintroduction area.

For more details, including those on public hearings or submitting comments=
on the draft environmental assessment (EA), see:


Anyone birding for a while will conclude that =93the raptor folks=94 are a =
different sort of birder. And, if anything, this new book, THE EAGLE WATCHE=
RS (Comstock 2010), will further establish =93the eagle folks=94 as a separ=
ate category of raptorphiles.

This book, edited by Ruth Tingay and Todd Katzner, is appropriate for almos=
t anyone who has ever admired eagles. The volume covers 24 species of eagle=
s from the familiar (e.g., Bald Eagle and Golden Eagle) to the obscure (e.g=
., New Guinea Harpy Eagle) in stories provided by 29 leading eagle research=
ers. The introductory chapter by Tingay and Katzner on the subject of eagle=
diversity, ecology, and conservation is concise and valuable, and the indi=
vidual profiles of both bird species and the human researchers are equally =
well done. Some spectacular photographs also accompany the text.

To support the conservation programs described in the volume, all royalties=
are being donated to two leading institutions: Hawk Mountain Sanctuary=92s=
intern program and the National Birds of Prey Trust.


In the past we have encouraged readers to take a friend or colleague into t=
he field from time to time:

We=92ve also recently encouraged you to recycle your bird and nature magazi=

Now we=92re going to suggest that you share a bird book. No, not a field gu=
ide. We suggest that you lend or give a book on birds to a friend or collea=
gue. Perhaps you can share THE EAGLE WATCHERS described above. Or perhaps y=
ou can share an adventure book about birds =96 focused on North America or =
even some exotic tropical location. You might also dig up a book on an exti=
nct or near-extinct species, perhaps on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, or a b=
iography of J. J. Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson, or Rosalie Edge.

No matter. Just make it a story, not a field guide, and make sure it=92s a =

Next month we=92ll suggest how to share another kind of bird book with anot=
her purpose altogether.


Birders have been abuzz recently about an upcoming movie, expected early ne=
xt year, loosely based on Mark Obmascik’s 2004 book, THE BIG YEAR. The book=
was about the quest by three birders – Sandy Komito, Al Levantin, and Greg=
Miller =96 to see as many birds as possible in North America in 1998.

The movie, a 20th Century Fox production, will be a fictionalized spin-off =
on the book. The three main characters have been renamed in the film, many =
of the facts and locations moved around, and it will be set in the present-=
day rather than the late 1990s.

Here are a few details:
– Three months of shooting began May 3. Release expected sometimec in 2011=
, perhaps as early as April.
– Shooting locations: Vancouver BC, Osoyoos, BC (doubles for Texas and Ari=
zona); Tofino, BC; NYC; Arizona; the Yukon (for Attu).
– Executive Producer: Ben Stiller
– Director: David Frankel
– Casting (in part): Steve Martin, Owen Wilson, Jack Black, Brian Dennehy,=
Dianne Wiest, and
Anjelica Huston.

The movie’s director, David Frankel, says, “To me, this is a fascinating s=
tory about three men who are at a crucial point in their lives, caught up i=
n an obsession. The bird watching really reveals their character.”

Let=92s hope the picture of birders steers away from the unpleasant image p=
resented by Miss Jane Hathaway in TV=92s famous “Beverly Hillbillies.”

You can find some sample birder interest in the film here:,896.0.html

And up to 15 photos from the film set may be seen at:


To celebrate National Geographic=92s connection with the E-bulletin, we hav=
e some fine National Geographic books to distribute to E-bulletin readers. =
Readers who choose to enter our quick-and-easy contest have the chance to w=
in one of these books. Each of our quiz questions will either relate to one=
of our news items for the previous month, or it will relate to some event =
or experience that is due to occur during the current month.

For more on the excellent NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC books, see:

There will undoubtedly be multiple readers who answer our monthly question =
correctly, so we will only be able to distribute five copies to readers who=
se names are picked at random from all those submitting correct answers. Be=
cause of shipping constraints, only folks residing in the U.S. or Canada ar=
e eligible.

The prize this month will be a copy of the standard Fifth Edition of the NA=
opies to distribute this month.

For more on this book, see here:

Since our Book Note deals with eagles, we have an eagle question this month=
: When the Bald Eagle was removed from the list of Endangered Species under=
the Endangered Species Act, it was still protected under two federal laws.=
The first is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. What is the second?

Please send your answer by 18 September to:

Question for last month:
What Alaskan-breeding shorebird holds the record for a non-stop migratory f=

The answer:
Bar-tailed Godwit (which has been known to travel from Alaska to New Zealan=
d – 7,258 miles – non-stop)

Last month=92s winners were Noah Kahn (Arlington, VA), John F. Kearney (Ant=
igonish, Nova Scotia), Louisa J. Kreider (Northfield, OH), Doug Marooney (L=
ittleton, CO), and Clifford Seifer
(Keene, NH)

– – – – – – – – –
You can access past E-bulletins on the National Wildlife Refuge Association=
(NWRA) website:

If you wish to distribute all or parts of any of the monthly Birding Commun=
ity E-bulletins, we simply request that you mention the source of any mater=
ial used. (Include a URL for the E-bulletin archives, if possible.)

If you have any friends or co-workers who want to get onto the monthly E-bu=
lletin mailing list, have them contact either:

Wayne R. Petersen, Director
Massachusetts Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program
Mass Audubon
Paul J. Baicich

We never lend or sell our E-bulletin recipient list.

This entry was posted in birding, birding community e-bulletin, birds/nature, Christmas Bird Count, editorial, Endangered Species Act, environment, IUCN, life, Links, migrants, skepticism and science, wildlife. Bookmark the permalink.

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